Alabama Senator Doug Jones Takes Office

Alabama’s new U.S. senator, Doug Jones, took the oath of office on Wednesday, and succeeded U.S. Sen. Luther Strange who had been appointed a year ago to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, who became U.S. Attorney General.

Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to Sen. Jones, D-Mountain Brook. Pence also administered the oath to former Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a Democrat, who was appointed to replace Democrat U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Sen. Jones is the 42nd person to serve as a U.S. senator in Alabama since statehood in 1819 and the first Alabama Democrat elected to the Senate in 25 years. When he took office, Jones reduced the Senate’s Republican majority from 52-48 to 51-49.

Sen. Jones was elected in a special election on Dec. 12, 2017, to a term ending January 2021. He joins Alabama’s senior senator, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.

Business Council of Alabama President and CEO William J. Canary congratulated Senator Jones on his win.

“For the entire Alabama business community, we look forward to working with him as he joins the Alabama delegation,” Canary said. “Alabama and the business community are blessed to have the unparalleled leadership and integrity of Sen. Richard Shelby and the entire House congressional delegation who we have always been able to rely upon to move Alabama forward in the right direction.”

Jones, 63, said infrastructure improvements may be one area where bipartisanship will prevail.


Election 2018 from A(labama) to W(yoming)

Roll Call (1/4) Roll Call has produced a complete calendar of congressional political dates for 2018, beginning with Alabama’s election cycle and ending with Wyoming: The filing deadline is Feb. 9 and the primaries are June 5. If needed, a runoff will be held July 17. All seven congressional seats are up for election but there is no U.S. Senate race in Alabama this year.


President Trump to Attend Alabama-Georgia National Title Game 

Associated Press (Brumback, Martin 1/4) “Atlanta’s mayor is promising a ‘safe, smooth and secure’ college football championship game Monday, despite the traffic problems expected to be caused by President Donald Trump’s motorcade, but none of the many agencies involved are taking any chances. The stadium will be secured by legions of undercover and uniformed officers, overhead air traffic including drones will be prohibited and the police chief implored the more than 100,000 participants in events related to the big game to leave their guns at home.

“We CANNOT have folks continuing to bring guns and leaving them in their cars,” Chief Erika Shields said at a multi-agency news conference Thursday on preparations. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the Secret Service and other agencies have prepared for this for months, so the addition of a presidential visit to the mix won’t disrupt the fun.

“Special Agent David LeValley, who runs the FBI’s Atlanta office, said although ‘there aren’t any specific threats against this event, we are actively assessing intelligence that comes in.’ Precautions include the Federal Aviation Administration prohibiting aircraft over Mercedes-Benz Stadium, including drones. Monday evening’s College Football Playoff Championship game between the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama was already being treated as a high-level security event, so the president’s visit won’t imply much additional security, LeValley said.”


Trump Administration Proposal to Exempt Small Business from Some ACA Rules Will Be Published Today in the Federal Register Subject to 60-day Public Comment Period

Wall Street Journal (Armour 1/4) “The Trump administration is proposing changes that would let millions of small businesses and the self-employed buy health-insurance plans that don’t comply with all Affordable Care Act requirements, part of an aggressive move to undo the health law through regulatory action.

“The proposal would allow businesses that share geography or an industry in common to form an association and sell members health policies that are exempt from some of the health law’s requirements, according to a senior Labor Department official. They would no longer have to comply with an ACA rule that they offer a mandatory array of benefits, such as substance-abuse treatment.

“[A] proposed nondiscrimination rules prevent association health plans from varying premiums based on pre-existing conditions, which would mitigate the extent to which these new plans could destabilize the existing small business and individual insurance markets,” said Larry Levitt, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“The proposal was initiated after an executive order in October from President Donald Trump, who has been trying to unwind the ACA using regulation in the wake of a failed Republican attempt to repeal the health law in Congress. GOP lawmakers did repeal the ACA’s individual mandate, which requires most people to have health coverage, although it is still in force this year.

“Business groups also said the rule would give them a boost, enabling them to band together as associations and offer the same type of coverage as their larger competitors. ‘Main Street retailers need more affordable health-care options and a level playing field with larger companies that are better positioned to negotiate for lower insurance costs,’ David French, senior vice president for government relations at the National Retail Federation, said in a statement.”